Gretchen Wilson, Josh Thompson Rip Off Black Crowes?
I’ve had a working theory for a while that 75% of what you hear on mainstream country radio today can be traced back to a small handfull of songs by Bob Seger and The Black Crowes. Darn near 1/3 of them can be traced back to Seger’s “Night Moves” alone. Well it might be time to graduate my theory to an axiom.
On Tuesday (3/30), pop country’s Gretchen Wilson will release her fourth album, I Got Your Country Right Here. The name of the album intrigued me, because lately I’ve been on the look out for Nashville’s major country labels trying to take advantage of how the backlash against pop country is going mainstream. Labels like Sony BMG and Columbia Nashville may be dumb, but they’re not stupid. They know that the rise of pop acts in the country genre, acts like Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, is causing some country fans to question just how country their country music is.
The Nashville oligarchy doesn’t want their “demographics” looking to smaller labels or independent artists to find their country fix, so they are trying to manufacture their own “Outlaws” and “REAL” country artists. An example would be Columbia Nashville’s Josh Thompson, who I took to task a few weeks ago. Gretchen’s new album made me wonder if the same handiwork was in play, so I started hunting around for info on the new material, which led me to her song, “Work Hard, Play Harder.”
As soon as I started watching the video for the song what IMMEDIATELY struck me was how it was almost EXACTLY the same song as Josh Thompson’s Beer on the Table. The notes sung at the beginning of the verses are nearly spot on. The lyrics are on the same exact subject matter, not only in the song overall, but how they play out in the specific verses. Even the way the chorus comes in is almost exactly the same in the two songs. It IS the same song, just with different singers and a few re-arranged lyrics.
So I was going to have a little fun breaking down these two songs, using them as an example of the lack of creativity in pop Nashville and how cubicle farms of songwriters use simple formulas to manufacture “hits.” But as I was hunting down lyrics for both songs I found something even more sinister: Right now The Black Crowes are suing Gretchen Wilson, because they say her song “Work Hard, Play Harder” is a rip off of their 1990 song “Jealous Again.” In other words, Josh Thompson’s song is a mirror of Gretchen Wilson’s song, and Gretchen’s song WAS RIPPED OFF FROM THE BLACK CROWES !!!
From The Black Crowes manager Pete Angelus:
“We find the musical verses of Wilson’s song to be such an obvious example of copyright infringement that I expect all parties to reach a relatively quick resolution to avoid litigation.”
The lawsuit also names Sony BMG and TNT who was using the song in a TV promo. John Rich, another guy who likes to ballyhoo his “REAL” country music, was a co-writer on the Wilson song as well. So far no word on an outcome of the lawsuit; it was filed in July, 2008.
I can’t think of a better example of the incestuous, creatively stagnant environment that pop country music has become. It’s pretty telling that before Gretchen’s new album even hits stores, one of the top singles is being pursued directly for copyright infringement. Maybe she should stop taking whiskey shots and perpetually whipping shitties in the mud around her doublewide like her marketeers like to make us think she does, and start crunching out some new ideas. Even if any lawsuit, past or future, fails to find pay dirt, it’s hard to listen to these two songs and any others on pop country radio and say that any variety or creativity is being offered up.
The other thing I can’t stop thinking when I hear these songs is that I’m not only hearing crap music, I’m hearing rap music.
But don’t take my jaded opinion, watch and judge for yourself:
According to this article in the Nashville Scene, Gretchen conceded the battle with The Black Crowes, meaning the song was indeed found to be copyright infringement. Chris and Rich Robinson will now be credited as songwriters on Gretchen’s “Work Hard, Play Harder,” and will receive royalties from the song.
Gretchen’s “Work Hard, Play Harder”
March 28, 2010 @ 9:36 am
good stuff, my friend. the same can be said for rock ‘n’ roll and it’s current crop of folks. i can listen to say, a decent punk tune and hear: alice cooper, pink floyd, the stones or keith richards, etc. my good friend, john harrelson is fond of saying good contemporary music died in the early 80’s. i tend to agree with him. everybody just copies the older stuff and nothing new has come around. well, for the most part but i think you catch my drift.
March 28, 2010 @ 9:51 am
I THINK YOU ARE ON TO SOMETHING PROFESSOR..I HEARD GRETCHEN SAY THIS IS THE CD SHE WANTED TO RELEASE SINCE SHE CAME TO NASHVILLE..SHE SAYS THIS IS THE COUNTRY CD THAT WILL GET HER BACK ON TOP..I HEARD THIS ON CMT INSIDER..THIS LITTLE 30 MINUTE SHOW WILL CATCH YOU UP ON ALL THE POP SHIT GOING ON..YOU ARE USING THEM BIG WORDS AGAIN..I’M GOING TO HAVE TO BUY ANOTHER WEBSTER..MINE IS OLD..OUT DATED..LOL..
March 28, 2010 @ 10:03 am
Sure there’s been rehashed styles in music for a long time, but I think this takes it to the next level. These songs don’t just sound like older songs, they ARE the older songs, and now people are ripping off the ripoffs.
I promise I’m working on nesting comments.
March 28, 2010 @ 10:07 am
I’m sure this album will put her back on top; it’s got that undeniable pop country sound. For me, if I want to hear the Black Crowes, I’ll listen to The Black Crowes. Their first few albums weren’t bad.
NOt much for watching the boob tube, but I probably should start fighting through that Insider show to stay informed.
I threw in “axiom” just to trip you up. 🙂
March 28, 2010 @ 10:59 am
LMAO! listening to “JEALOUS AGAIN” I found myself inadvertantly superimposing lyrics to “BEER ON THE TABLE”! That is some funny shit Triggerman. Wether intentional or unintetional on the writers part, it is definetly a “RIP OFF”! GREAT POST!
March 28, 2010 @ 1:46 pm
Well, well, well. It’s even beyond the whole “similarities are striking” point, those are rip-offs plain and simple. Hopefully the lawsuit does win in court, it would be nice to have a legal document signed by a judge saying pop country sucks.
Oh, and where’s Josh Thompson’s fan club at now? While there’s no realistic way to defend this I want to watch them try to form and twist words as much as possible to do it, as they seem more than willing to do.
March 28, 2010 @ 4:21 pm
Ha! I can’t believe I didn’t pick up on that the first time you posted that “Beer on the Table”, it IS “Jealous Again”. I’ll take early 90’s Black Crowes over that any day! Speaking as a songwriter myself, it is hard not to copy the artists you admire, but the idea is that all your influences get mixed together and what gets spit out at the end is something that REMINDS you of, say, the Black Crowes (or Waylon or Hank or the Stones), but is an original piece.
March 28, 2010 @ 6:11 pm
I think you will find this recent article in Nashville Scene magazine interesting … it also states that the lawsuit was settled.
March 28, 2010 @ 6:39 pm
Very interesting, good find Declared!
However she wants to spin it, she got caught red handed, and now has to include the Crowes in the credits, haha! They will also get royalties.
Another thing I found interesting in that article, she said she had to fire 12 employees. Is she a person, or a corporation? All this talk of how she keeps it real and has to tend bar on Thursdays, and the girl has an entourage of 30 people and a 300 acre ranch. What a hose job.
March 28, 2010 @ 7:09 pm
I always knew that pop country was recycled 80’s rhythm and blues based rock, but I never realized how recycled.
and declared, that was a good find.
The worst part – She’s now the poster girl for the new “outlaw” movement that corporate Nashville is starting, and in that article she admits that getting more creative control was bad for her career. How very “outlaw” of her.
Oh, and firing 12 staff members because she had to take a pay cut from $250,000 to $100,000 a show?
March 28, 2010 @ 11:01 pm
WHO IN THE HELL DID GRETCHEN FIRE?SHE DON’T WEAR MAKE UP,DON’T HAVE HER NAILS DONE OR HER HAIR,SHE BUYS HER OWN GROCERIES,TAKES CARE OF HER OWN CHILD AND ONLY LEAVES HER A LITTLE BIT WITH SOMEONE WHILE SHE GOES TO DO A SHOW AND SOMEBODY HAS TO DRAG HER AWAY TO DO THAT..SHE DON’T NEED MUCH MONEY BECAUSE SHE LIVES A SIMPLE LIFE..SHE DON’T EVEN USE TOILET PAPER TO WIPE HER ASS BUT A CORN COB..IF I WAS GOING TO BUTT FUCK HER I WOULD HAVE TO USE LUBE,NOT TO GET IT IN BUT TO KEEP FROM SCRATCHING MY DICK ON HER ROUGH ASS..
WHO IN THE HELL DID SHE FIRE?MUST HAVE BEEN THE PROSTITUTES LIVING IN THAT BIG HOUSE TO HELP HER MAKE THE PAYMENTS..POOR THING HADN’T HAD A HIT IN SO LONG BECAUSE TAYLOR SWIFT WOULDN’T LET HER SONGS TO THE TOP..BULLSHIT!!!
March 28, 2010 @ 11:40 pm
WELL MY RFD-TV IS CORRUPTED NOW..I WAS SITTING HERE LISTENING TO THE CROOK AND CHASE SHOW,THEY ARE HONORING DARIUS RUCKER AT A #1 RECORD PARTY THAT AIRED BACK IN JUNE..OF COURSE ALL OF NASHVILLE WAS ACCEPTING HIM AND HIS WHITE WIFE THAT SAID POP DIDN’T WANT HIM TO TELL THE PUBLIC HE WAS MARRIED BUT COUNTRY IS EMBRACING THEM..YEAH I’M RACIST BUT SO IS HE..FUCKING HYPOCRIT..I’M ABOUT READY TO HIRE SOMEBODY TO BLOW MY HEAD OFF INSTEAD OF SEEING THIS SHIT GOING ON AND ON BUT WON’T GIVE IN OR UP THAT REAL COUNTRY MUSIC WILL SOME DAY PREVAIL..
March 29, 2010 @ 3:43 am
She probably fired the employees from her new record company Redneck Records thats only about 6 months old…
And have you seen her official website? What does the beach and surfing have to do with rednecks?
March 29, 2010 @ 3:48 am
Here’s that beach pic… http://www.gretchenwilson.com/index.php?page=media
March 29, 2010 @ 9:36 am
The more I read that Nashville Scene story, the more it angered my blood. In a lot of ways, I should be behind what Gretchen is doing. She’s a true rags to riches story. She dropped out of school and worked her ass of and did it her way. And she started her own record label and fought for control of her music.
But that story paints her out to be such a victim when she made unbelievable money selling pop country songs. She should be set for life. I don’t want to hear about her struggling to keep her corporation and her 300-acre spread together when I’m struggling with my own damn bills. She’s supposed to be this “redneck” woman of the people, and maybe she once was, but now all she is is a fraud.
You want to start a record label? Get a bootleg copy of Pro Tools and a good audio interface. Don’t hire 30 people and then bitch when you can’t pay them all. Sounds to me like she’s on the MC Hammer business plan.
Keep thinking of this when I think of Gretchen bitching:
David Lee is a redneck woman
March 30, 2010 @ 2:32 am
Haaaa … I think I saw where she hired a bunch of her yankee family to move onto her ranch in TN and raise cattle, goats, and frogs and shit. They must all have stratospheric pill habits or somethin to suckup all the money for her farm mortgage.
Ry O. Ny
March 30, 2010 @ 8:19 am
WooooooooooHooooooooooooo, Bust those Bitches Baaallls!! Wake’m all the Fuck Up, Help’m rub there sleepy fuckin eyes to see reality, cause we KNOW-THEY-BLOW little cocks in big corporate Nashville offices!!!! Now go get me my “Beer off the table bitch”!!!!!
April 1, 2010 @ 10:29 am
WOW!! That is just pathetic!
April 2, 2010 @ 10:57 am
gretchen’s a naughty girl,,,,she needs a spanking,,,,
Saving Country Music » Blog Archive » Gretchen Wilson’s “Outlaws & Renegades” (A Rant)
April 5, 2010 @ 2:44 pm
[…] from her new album I Got Your Country Right Here. Her song “Work Hard, Play Harder” was legally found to be a ripoff of a Black Crowes song, and yet, this isn’t even the most sinister song on the album. That distinction belongs to […]
April 16, 2010 @ 11:03 am
Yeah, and maybe the Rolling Stones should sue the Black Crowes for ripping off their sound. I do hear the similar verse melodies, but thing is, modern country is derived from folk music where melodies, especially verse melodies, get recycled constantly- and this recycling is about the only thing ‘country’ left in today’s country. Yeah, country radio has its collective head up it’s hindquarters, but it’s not like there are no alternatives for true fans who are willing to make a little effort to seek out the real deal.
Lady Antebellum’s CMA Single Rips Off of Alan Parsons? « Saving Country Music
November 16, 2010 @ 7:27 pm
[…] off songs might be business as usual for Music Row; Gretchen Wilson was caught red handed ripping off The Black Crowes earlier this year. But never has it been for a song sporting a CMA award. If anything, the […]
November 16, 2010 @ 11:03 pm
Soooooo…… does it make me a bad person that half the songs I write sound very Waylon like?
November 19, 2010 @ 2:22 pm
I think you are getting a little carried away with screaming that this and the Lady A song were ripped off. Anyone who knows about music theory can tell you that there is actually a very limited framework that popular musicians can work with, while still expecting to make any money on their music. For example the I, V, VIm, IV chord progression has been beaten into the ground… but no claims old crow medicine show is ripping of alabama…
The point is it takes a lot of talent, motivation, and style to produce a hit song. The fact that a song uses some of the same phrasing or similar chord signatures does not make it a rip off. The lyrics to Beer on the Table are miles ahead of any of the drugged out simple ramblings that make up “Jealous Again”… not to say the Crowes arent good, but it took some real songwriting talent to write Beer on the Table. Think I’m wrong? Then show me something you have done, Triggerman. These guys are all talented. You are just a naysayer, sitting on the sidelines in your arm-chair pretending to be a well versed critic.
November 19, 2010 @ 4:31 pm
Yes songs structures are all very similar and all that, but there is a line. The Jealous Again / Work Hard, Play Harder ripoff is a perfect example. Like it says in the update of this article, Gretchen admitted to the infraction, and if you look this song up, The Black Crowes are listed as songwriters and receive royalties for her “Work Hard, Play Harder.”
I am a musician, mostly playing drums, and not standing at the front of the stage and writing songs, though I have written a few. Difference is, I’m not putting them out there for public consumption. I’m not saying I’m some super musician, but I do understand chords and song structures, and have studied it in depth for many years.
The argument that critics don’t have a right to bitch is a tired one. It is our job. And as an artist, whether with music or writing, I encourage critical analysis, just like your comments, for example. Any artist should want good criticism so that they can get better, and in such a crowded music landscape, music listeners can use criticism to help them decide what to give their time to. Criticism is essential, or at least, proven to be popular.
November 19, 2010 @ 11:29 pm
Hell yeah Triggerman, I don’t always agree with you but I respect the knowledge behind your point of view. Just because I don’t agree with you or because you have entertainingly slammed someone or their song that I like, myself and many of your other readers will not stoop to “pissed off character assassination” for lack of a valid argument. Keep on keepin on!!!
February 21, 2014 @ 7:12 pm
If you know music theory, you probably know the difference between melody, harmony, and chord progressions. Only one of those three things can be copyrighted or claimed. Hint: It’s not the chord progression. Obviously, GW knew this when she conceded credit to Chris and Rich Robinson.
The Thompson song mostly just lifts the guitar lick, which is a little different from GW’s blatant plagiarism of the melody.
What does it matter what Triggerman, or myself, have written? The Crowes wrote something that GW thought was worth stealing (and now, paying for), apparently. That’s the issue here, not your lame attempt at an ad hominem.
American Country Awards Controversial Before They Begin « Saving Country Music
December 6, 2010 @ 10:07 am
[…] show is “Work Hard, Play Harder” from the fake Outlaw Gretchen Wilson; a song which was found to be a ripoff of The Black Crowes’ “Jealous Again,” with Gretchen being forced to put the Robinson brothers in the credits […]